As a dancer, I am always finding my balance. I am constantly aware of the placement of my shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in relation to each other.
Even when I’m doing something menial, such as brushing my teeth in the morning, I look at my shoulders, my rib cage, and my pelvis in the mirror to make sure nothing is out of place. As I brush over those pesky, hard-to-reach molars, I relevé slowly, and I find my balance there. If I’m feeling adventurous, I lift one foot into coupé and hold as a brush the back of my tongue.
Through these little movements, I am searching for that moment where all of my joints stack effortlessly on top of each other. I’m working to find the equilibrium in my body that allows me to not only walk correctly, but also allows me to freely bend, turn and jump as I please.
Finding that equilibrium is quite exhilarating.
Once I find that balance, I feel unstoppable. I feel free to try new things in my dancing. Balances and turns become easier, and floor work and lifting exercises become more approachable. Finding my balance allows me to try new things and push myself as a performer and as an artist.
Outside of the dance world, finding my balance can be tricky. It took me thirteen years of dance training to figure out how to stay aligned while dancing. And truly, I didn’t properly find it until somewhere around year ten or eleven.
If it took me thirteen years of dancing to begin to grasp the concept of being balanced, then how the hell am I supposed to understand what being balanced in my regular life looks like?
This is when I look to the dance world for inspiration. (Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? A question for another article entirely.)
For starters, in dance classes, there’s always a mirror. Usually spanning an entire wall, the mirror is a tool for dancers to use to improve upon their technique. For me, a dance studio is not a dance studio without a mirror.
I believe the concept of the mirror in a dance class translates into regular life as well. More broadly, I believe the it is the base concept of the mirror, of reflection, that we can apply to our search for balance. Constant reflection in and of our day-to-day lives helps us find balance. We can check up on our eating habits, our sleeping patterns, and our mood swings to see what’s out of whack, what needs to be adjusted, and what’s doing just fine. Reflection leads to awareness, and awareness leads to action.
Back to my dental hygiene routine—in the bathroom, the mirror on my wall is large enough to see my entire torso and the top parts of my thighs. I use the mirror in the morning to check my alignment, to see if my shoulders are in line with my hips, and if my rib cage is popping out. I see where I could stand up a little straighter and what muscles I need to activate more in order to find my balance. Once I pinpoint the issues, I (slowly) test out movements (like isolating my rib cage and shoulders) and apply different spatial/energetic concepts to my body (like thinking of a string pulling the crown of my head up). Without the mirror (and without reflection), this process is not as effective. I would also forget that there is a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth.
Reflection is necessary when it comes to finding balance. Dancers and non-dancers alike, we need to be able to check in on ourselves. We need to see that the work we put in translates to progress. Finding balance takes time; however, with the right tools (which may or may not include a mirror, a toothbrush, and a little bit of patience), we can find our own equilibrium. From this equilibrium, we are free to run, to jump, to move -- we are free to do whatever we want. We can do this, knowing we have head on our shoulders (and stacked nicely on our hips and knees as well), and that if we get a little off balance, we know where our center is.
And to quote a famous animated Chinese captain: “Once you find your center, you are sure to win.”
“Once you find your center, you are sure to win.” - Li Shang, “Make a Man Out of You,” Mulan